In March, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights noted that racist and anti-Roma discourse was still common among mainstream politicians at both national and local levels. Both the Commissioner and the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child expressed concerns over the perpetuation of systemic and unlawful segregation of Romani children from mainstream education.
Racism and violent attacks
Following tensions between Roma and non-Roma in Nový Bydžov in the Hradec Králové region, the town’s mayor stated in November 2010 that “citizens… want the Roma to disappear. But… [t]he hands of the local government are tied by the legislation”. Representatives of the Workers’ Social Justice Party welcomed the mayor’s statement and announced their readiness to help the municipality. On 12 March, the Party organized a march in Nový Bydžov. Three Roma were attacked by the demonstrators. NGOs expressed concerns about reports of excessive use of force by the police against peaceful counter-demonstrators, who attempted to create a blockade to prevent the marchers from passing through the predominantly Roma neighbourhood.
- In March, the High Court upheld the decision of the Regional Court in Ostrava, which found four men guilty of racially motivated attempted homicide and property damage in an arson attack against a Romani family in Vítkov in 2009. The perpetrators appealed against the High Court decision at the Supreme Court in July. In December, the Supreme Court rejected their appeal.
- On 11 July, an arson attack was reported in Býchory, central Bohemia. No one was injured. A police spokesperson told the media that the perpetrators had passed through the neighbourhood shouting racist slogans. Within several hours, the police arrested four individuals. The regional prosecutor pressed charges of attempted racially motivated serious bodily harm against one of the suspects. The remaining three were charged with violence against a group of people and against individuals.
- In August, following two incidents between Roma and non-Roma, “far-right” political groups including the Workers’ Social Justice Party staged several anti-Roma protests in the towns of Nový Bor, Rumburk, Varnsdorf and Šluknov in northern Bohemia. The protests, marked by violent clashes between protesters and police, continued until late September. Special police units were deployed to ensure public order. High-level officials including the President condemned the anti-Roma violence and the police spokesperson expressed readiness to prevent racially motivated abuses.
In response to increased tensions between Roma and non-Roma in the Šluknov area, the Minister of Interior met with the mayors of the region on 8 November. He announced the establishment of a special public order police unit. The Prime Minister reportedly said that the tensions were the result of excessively generous welfare policies and that the state should not assist “slackers and delinquents” who abuse benefits.
Approximately 50 experts from NGOs, academia and government agencies resigned from their Ministry of Education working groups in May. The resignations were in protest against the government’s failure to allocate sufficient resources to implement the National Action Plan for Inclusive Education, and its retrograde action on implementing necessary reforms. The group stated that remaining would amount to participation in a “window-dressing” exercise to mask the lack of action by the authorities.
The government continued to be criticized also for its failure to implement the European Court of Human Rights judgement in the case of D.H. and Others v. Czech Republic, in which the Court held that the state had discriminated against Romani pupils in access to education. The judgement required the Czech Republic to adopt measures to prevent discrimination and redress its effects. In May, the government adopted amendments to the decrees on the provision of counselling services in schools and on the education of children, pupils and students with special educational needs. These entered into force on 1 September. However, local NGOs expressed concerns that the amendments had not introduced the strong framework necessary to implement the judgement. Moreover, the CERD Committee had stated in August that the amended decrees may in fact reinforce discrimination.
Following a review in June, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe called on the government to speed up its implementation of the National Action Plan and provide precise information on its current state. The Committee also noted with concern that much remained to be done to ensure that Romani children were not discriminated against within the education system.
- In August, the Regional Court in Prague rejected two complaints of ethnic discrimination and segregation of Roma in access to housing. The complaints involved Romani families in Kladno who had been evicted by the municipality and relocated to inadequate housing in a former slaughterhouse complex that was segregated from the town. The Court held that the families’ relocation did not amount to segregation and discrimination and failed to call on the municipality to justify why only Romani tenants had been relocated to the site. An NGO, Z§vůle práva, representing the Romani applicants, appealed against the decision at the High Court.
Enforced sterilization of Romani women
- In June, the Supreme Court ruled that the High Court in Olomouc, Moravia, had to review the case of a Romani woman who was allegedly sterilized without her informed consent. The Supreme Court disagreed with the lower court’s decision that a victim of sterilization was not entitled to compensation because the statute of limitations had expired.
In January, legislation came into force extending the maximum period of immigration detention to 18 months, giving rise to profound concern that it would lead to foreign nationals languishing in detention solely for immigration purposes. In July, the Ministry of Interior presented a draft of the new Act on the Stay of Foreigners. The draft maintained the extended maximum period of immigration detention. Moreover, the human rights Ombudsperson expressed concern that the draft, if adopted and implemented, would sanction a discriminatory two-tier system for Czech nationals and their non-EU family members.
- Credible allegations emerged concerning trafficking in foreign migrant workers and fraud in the forestry industry, where people were forced to work for up to 12 hours per day without being paid their salary. In some cases no wages had been paid at all, often for several months. A police investigation into those reports was ongoing at the end of the year, but its pace and effectiveness gave rise to concern. Czech forestry companies continued to recruit new workers for the 2011 season.